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<  Design concepts  ~  Minimalism

Michael
Posted: Mon Apr 03, 2006 12:51 am Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium
There's something to say for minimalism in game design. As opposed to the "maximalism" that seems to be so desirable for "next gen". It seems like the value of each addition becomes smaller as there are more of them. And there may even be a point were adding things actuality reduces the (perceived -but is there any other?) quality of your product.

For our own work with Tale of Tales, I'm considering the notion of extreme minimalism as a good option. Due to budget restrictions (and a refusal to become corporate), we already find ourselves having to be very careful with the choices that we make. But I'm thinking that going even further might be a good idea. The makers of Ico once advocated "Reduce the volume, increase the quality and density". That's definitely wise advice. But we're not Sony. We need to go even further.

I remember when we were showing a demo of "8", that players remarked that they really liked the sound of the foot steps. As you know, in most games, foot steps make a sound. Nobody seems to care. But given that there was so little else in this early demo, suddenly the sound of foot steps became very valuable.

We are now adding lots of new motions to the deer avatar in "The Endless Forest". And while this may be a lot of fun for the players, it may not add so much to the character of the deer as such. Which is where this relates to "Drama Princess", the research project we are starting now concerning autonomous characters in realtime 3D.

To make a character credible, the first reflex is add as many motions and behaviours as budget and time allow. Because then they supposedly look more like real living creatures. I think this is a mistake. The more motions you add, the more it becomes clear that your creations are not alive, but just puppets on strings pulled by some machine. I think this is because the characters need to only be alive in the heads of the players. To find the right balance between stylisation and liveliness is the key. You don't want your characters to appear stiff (unless that is their personality) but too much motions will only make it clear that the character is a machine. You need to allow for sufficient room for the player's imagination. Because only there will the character truly be alive.

Perhaps "decorative" ambient motions go a much longer way than functional ones. This is related to the "less volume, more density" credo of the Ico team: rather than having the character stand, run, jump, duck, make paper airplanes and sing karaoke, just make him stand in a very convincing way, with smart use of ambient motions, so that you really believe he exists. (Hehe, reminds of the "under-acting" that was so popular in the days of Bogart and Bacall...)



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MoriartyL
Posted: Mon Apr 03, 2006 8:40 am Reply with quote
Joined: 05 Nov 2005 Posts: 69 Location: Israel
When I read the title, I figured you'd probably decided to stop adding little additions to The Lost Garden. After all, if minimalism is a virtue, then isn't there something to be said for finding just a few bits of gameplay that best personify deers, and leaving the game complete at that? Ah, but you don't seem to be referring to minimalism in the actual gameplay, but in the superficial design elements- art design, sound. And in that case, I don't think the real issue is minimalism, I think it's just the elimination of distractions.

Bad animation is a distraction. Bad sound is a distraction. If you can make good animation or good sound, the game will be more immersive. But if you can't, it's certainly a good idea to get rid of them. Not because they don't fit a minimalist philosophy or something like that, but because they don't work and as nothing more than supportive content they are fairly expendable.
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Michael
Posted: Mon Apr 03, 2006 9:08 am Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium
The idea of minimalism, or more precisely concentration or increased density, I guess, does apply to gameplay as well, or "interaction", in our case, since the word "gameplay" is too limiting for our purposes. But you underestimate the importance of the "superficial design elements" in our work.

I disagree that it's only a matter of adding good art assets versus bad ones. Even of good ones, there can be too many. And the project doesn't keep getting better as you add more good assets. There's a saturation point in there, I think.
It's all about the big picture, the total experience. All the elements have to increase the quality of the experience as a whole. We don't make a separation between interaction and art & sound design in this. Both contribute too each other and to the whole.

And I don't think it's just about removing distractions. At least not for us. I'm thinking that we should go much further. It's about suggestion (to replace representation). Because the most powerful creative element in the interactive experience is the player's mind. The player's mind should become part of the process.
And that applieas to both the art and the interaction.


Last edited by Michael on Mon Apr 03, 2006 9:14 am; edited 2 times in total
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Michael
Posted: Mon Apr 03, 2006 9:12 am Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium
Perhaps this desire for minimalism is linked to the power of suggestion.

Arrow A horror movie if more frightening if it does not show the monster or threat.
Arrow A model is sexier when she wears clothing.

Can you help me find more examples?
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MoriartyL
Posted: Mon Apr 03, 2006 9:24 am Reply with quote
Joined: 05 Nov 2005 Posts: 69 Location: Israel
Arrow A plot's more engaging when you have to work to uncover it.

I get it. I'm not sure the term "minimalism" applies. Minimalism is identifying the most important part of a game and taking away everything else. So when you refuse to consider some elements more important than others, you're already not following minimalism.
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Michael
Posted: Mon Apr 03, 2006 9:48 am Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium
I knew I couldn't be a minimalist with my love of the baroque! Shocked

Thank you for correcting me. Very Happy
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